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Indian clashes force new curfew

Friday's march by Hindus in Ayodhya appears to have sparked the latest clashes
Friday's march by Hindus in Ayodhya appears to have sparked the latest clashes  

AHMEDABAD, India (CNN) -- Indian police have imposed a curfew in parts of the western city of Ahmedabad after deadly clashes between Hindu and Muslim gangs continued into the early hours of Saturday.

Two people died and 14 others were injured in the fighting, according to the city's Police Commissioner P.C. Pande.

The violence began Friday, hours after a group of Hindu hardliners stopped short of performing a "puja" or prayer service near a disputed religious site in the central Indian town of Ayodhya.

Hindus want to use the site, formerly the location of a 16th century Muslim mosque, to build a temple honoring what they say is the birthplace of the Hindu god Lord Rama.

The mosque was destroyed in 1992 after it was stormed by hardline Hindu mobs -- an incident which sparked nationwide sectarian riots in which more than 2,000 people died.

CNN's Kasra Naji says Hindu hardliners plan to proceed with laying a temple cornerstone at the site of a destroyed Muslim mosque

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On Friday a procession of Hindu hardliners making its way to an area near the ruins was stopped by a police blockade about an hour after the march started.

Near the disputed site, the marchers had planned to hand over to government authorities two stone pillars, part of the temple they want the government to construct on top of the ruins.

However, after encountering the police blockade, religious leaders decided to perform the handover ceremony several kilometers away.


That showdown appears to have reignited Hindu-Muslim tensions in Ahmedabad, the commercial capital of Gujarat state and flashpoint for much of the recent violence between Hindus and Muslims.

Police Commissioner Pande said four people were stabbed during clashes Friday, one fatally.

Later, in two separate incidents early Saturday one person was killed and 11 others injured as police opened fire in an effort to halt fighting between Hindu and Muslim gangs.

Gujarat has been the focus of much of the violence surrounding the disputed Ayodhya site after a train carrying Hindu campaigners was firebombed by what police say was a group of Muslims.

Fifty-eight people were killed in the February 27 train attack, which sparked bloody mob riots and violence throughout the state.

Hundreds of people were torched alive and businesses and homes razed until security forces gained control of the situation several days later.

Although some estimates have the death toll at over 700, the exact figure is unknown as bodies, often charred beyond recognition, are still being recovered.

-- CNN Producer Suhasini Haidar contributed to this report


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